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If the British Columbia Court of Appeal grants the provincial government the powers to regulate oil flows through its territory, then Alberta would by analogy gain the same right, which would end up as a problem for B.C., said Alberta’s Prime Minister Rachel Notley in response to a move by the B.C. government.
“We have asked the courts to confirm B.C.’s powers within our jurisdiction to defend B.C.’s interests, so that there is clarity for today and for the generations to come,” Premier John Horgan said in a statement after the province submitted a reference question to the B.C. Court of Appeal—the highest court to which the province can send a reference question.
“Our government will continue to stand up for the right to protect B.C.’s environment, economy and coast,” said Horgan.
The B.C. government is asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give the province the authority to regulate the impacts of heavy oils like diluted bitumen as part of its fight against the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project that Alberta is defending with all it has.
According to Notley, if the court decides in favor of the B.C. government, not just Alberta’s but Canada’s economy will “grind to a halt faster than you can say ‘free trade’”.
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“The way B.C. is framing this would effectively drive a truck — but not a train or a pipeline, apparently — through that loophole,” Notley added. “The resulting consequences would be very, very damaging to our national economy.”
The consequences will also potentially be very damaging for the very same environment that the B.C. government wants to protect from oil spills. Oil by truck is a far riskier alternative to pipelines for reasons including traffic on roads and the human factor.
While the two provinces exchange verbal blows and threaten legislative ones, the Trans Mountain project’s owner, Kinder Morgan, might just walk away from the whole quagmire. The company has given authorities until the end of May to come up with a way to ensure the project can take place, but according to B.C.’s Attorney General, the Court of Appeal is unlikely to issue a ruling by that date.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.